Jinjifore's Reviews > Beauty

Beauty by Robin McKinley
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Mar 02, 11

bookshelves: fiction, speculative, fantasy

I can't count how many times I've read this book. Robin McKinley has a gift for taking old stories and reworking them into something that is new and unique, and yet still bringing out pieces of the original that the reader might not have ever noticed before.[return][return]In this version of the story, "Beauty" is not, in fact, very beautiful. Her given name is Honor, to complement the names of her sisters Grace and Hope, but at a young age she discovered what honor meant and said that she wished to be beauty instead. Unfortunately, she didn't grow into this nickname, but her sisters and father were too kind, she says, to remark on it.[return][return]The closeness of the family is one of the changes McKinley made to the story, and I find that it adds a great deal to the story to have Beauty struggle not only with her own lonliness and fear in the Beast's castle, but with her painful separation from her family. In this version, her desire to leave the Beast for the fateful seven-day visit is motivated by her love for her sister Grace, and it is her family who persuades her to stay a little longer because of their own love for her. By switching the motivations from jealousy and spite to love, McKinley opens up new and interesting facets to the story.[return][return]The main reason I love this version so much, though, is Beauty's love of books and reading. She connects with the Beast through his magnificent library, and in fact learns to recognize and accept the magic of the castle through her trust of books. I have heard several rumors that the makers of the Disney version of the story used McKinley's book as a partial source, especially for Belle's love of books and the Beast's library. Although I've never been able to find any source that confirms the rumors, I was certainly thrilled to find one of my favorite parts of my own favorite version of the tale incorporated into the movie.[return][return]Beauty is a marvelously told book in its own right, even separated from the story on which it's based. McKinley has a way of writing that's simple and yet elegant, and has a remarkable facility for conveying her characters' feelings through the way they describe their own surroundings. I'm a huge fan of all of her works, but this one stands above the rest.
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